Sunday, 29 September 2013

Norway and Worlds

After my performances last year, and with making 2 European finals, I was this year selected for the World Youth Championships in Victoria, Canada along with a small group of the GB team; Molly, Pete, Buster, Jim and William. The flight was long, dull and filled with films, with the most exciting event being the finding of an unattended in-flight cookie box around 5 hours in. Canada from the air is incredible, so vast, empty and untouched, we flew for hours without seeing a town or even a road.

After short hop from Vancouver to Victoria in the scariest little plane I have encountered, we were on the island, and were to spend the next few days adjusting to the time difference and the place as a whole. The city was amazing, and unlike anywhere else I’ve been to, every person I met was happy and always ready for a chat. The amount of random strangers I had conversations with was staggering! In terms of the time difference I didn’t suffer too badly, and found waking up was actually easier than in the UK!

The Team!

Friday rolled around, and it was time for the first qualifiers. I was one of the last to climb in the biggest category of the event, so waited for hours under the giant wall, watching the competition unfold. I met a fair few new people on that day and the opening ceremony the previous night, and it was great to talk to some of them during the day. It was late before I started my climb, but I knew what I was doing, knew I was fit and knew I was ready. In the first part of the climb I felt sketchy and perhaps a bit nervous, but when I got to the rest I told myself to relax, enjoy it and climb my best, and I did. I fought as high as I could, and made it beyond any expectations I had, falling pumped within 2 clips of the top. You can do no more than fall off fighting, and that’s exactly what I did! I ended up 13th on that route, which put me in with a very good chance of making the semis, so I could relax some more and focus on my next route, and try to do as well as I could.

Qualifier 1 (Photo By Nick Pope!)

Like the first, my second qualifier began vertical and steepened out into a roof towards the top, and looked like my perfect style! I was on much earlier today, and this meant I could warm up as soon as I got to the wall, which helped to calm my nerves. Normally on routes in competitions they feel easier than they looked, that is the holds are bigger than they look from the ground, and the moves not as long, but on this route this was not the case! It was insecure and sketchy but I made my way up to the vertical wall to a rest, where I composed myself for the harder moves above. I moved off and up, and got to a long rockover around the arĂȘte. It was one of the harder moves on the route, and required a fair amount of commitment. I rocked to it, moving off the intermediate, but only got to the bottom of the hold. I clawed at wall trying to move the last inch but despite coming so close, I peeled off backwards into the air. I’m normally good at rockovers, so to fall off here was frustrating! It was enough though, and I qualified for the semi final in 17th.

Qualifier 2 (Photo By Nick Pope!)

The rest day was relaxing and gave me time to reflect on my performance, but before I knew it, it was back to the wall and into isolation. During observation the route looked just my style, techy and vert into more steep, crimp climbing. It looked perfect, and I was psyched to get on it! My time rolled around, and I was ready. From the start I felt good, and pretty solid on the first section. I got past the vertical and was resting ready to go for a big tufa that marked the beginning of the steeper section. I went for the move ready to use a small foothold as an intermediate, but it was terrible! I returned to the hold, ready to make the move again but had to move my hand around the rope, or it would have been in my way to do the move. I bumped it off, went around the rope, but when coming back down I hit the hold again wrong. I popped off it, over balanced and fell. I was devastated; to fall off with such a stupid mistake was completely frustrating. I ended up 24th, which with my qualifying results being much better I know there is lots of room for improvement, so bring on next year!

The Semis (Photos By Nick Pope!)

From Canada, after I got over my horrendous jetlag, it was to Norway for the final EYC of the year. The wall was in an ice rink, so warming up was the first challenge! The group sizes were relatively small, compared to somewhere like Imst at least, so I knew I would be on my first route reasonably early. I warmed up as normal and felt ready to climb my best. This was my last chance of the year to make a European final, so I had to get it right.

My first route was no soft touch. The vertical wall was littered with slopers that I knew were going to get my pumped. I sat in the chair, but was beginning to cool down as soon as I got off the warm-up wall. By the time it was my turn to climb, I felt fine, but as soon as I got onto the cold holds of the wall my fingers got cold I started to get pumped. I sketched my way over an awkward move off a sloper and rested on a volume, but just couldn’t shake off the pump. I had to press on, and hope it got no worse. I dug deep, and pulled over a lip before a move to and undercut defeated me. I came off pumped and frustrated with a final place of 12th on the route. Not bad, but not good enough for a place in the final yet. I had to do better, and I knew warming up effectively and staying warm would be key. 

I was dejected, but tried to stay positive. The route looked hard, and I was particularly worried about a section in the middle. I started and heel hooked my way up the arĂȘte to what looked like a hit or miss slap to a sloper, and there seemed to be more miss than hit. I got onto the hold below, looked up and reversed the moves. A high heel to hand, a rockover and a bit of luck later and I was past it, thank god for heels! I was pumped, but managed to fight my way to the next hard move, where I managed a crucial match on a big sloper before pumping out and peeling off. Now it was time to wait. For my efforts I gained a joint 4th place on that route, and had to wait the agonising hours to see if I could sneak in. The end draw closer and I was dropping places slowly. 6th… 7th… 8th… 9th… Then came 10th, the one place no-one wants to be with the end still not close. There were 5 to climb, then 2, then none. I had made it to the final of my first European this year, along with the rest of the GB junior team!

The 2nd Qualifier

The next day, finals day and I was set to go. I felt strong, and fit and ready. The route during observation looked desperate, with a hard double dyno move at half height. I read with a number of people, but knew the sequence was hard to read, and ensured I had multiple options for every move. I sat in the chair, put my shoes on, and then my favourite song came on in the arena. Perfect. I walked out, stood under the wall and read the climb. Time to go!

I had a huge scare at the second clip, where I had missed that one of the volumes was in fact a giant jug and went too statically, and almost didn’t reach it. Fortunately I held on, and fought my way through the lower section of the climb. I rested on a heel hook over a small lip and made my way, with some fighting, to the crimps before the dyno. It looked even bigger from here! I rested for what felt like an age on the crimps, and knew I would have to go for it. I got my feet up, and went! Looking back, it seemed like I was trying to do the move statically, or at least keep a hand on. I touched the hold, but couldn’t bring my other hand over to match it, and fell.

Looking back, maybe I should have rested longer on the holds, and gone for it with full commitment. But, I must say, the dyno was inappropriate for our age category. 4 fell at the same spot, and count back had to be used to separate us. One climber made the jump, and won the competition. This seems to be a new thing in competition lead climbing, dynos on the route. There were 2 in Norway, for some categories suitable and others perhaps not. Most recently on the male final in Purrs a sideways dyno caught out many of the strongest climbers in the world. Will there be more? I don’t know, but I will definitely be practising from now on!

I finished 5th in Norway, My best result in a European to date, and in my first year of the category. Hopefully next year we can bump that best up a place or four! My next comp is the junior and senior British Lead Climbing Championships in Sheffield next weekend, and then my first bouldering EYC in Laval next month, and am training hard!

Massive thank you to Paul Allen Wealth Management for their support, and bring on next year!

Happy climbing!

Alex J

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